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Thoughts on Heavy Metal

I grew up in the 1980s, a time when heavy metal (or more a popular imitation of it) became popular. I got to know big names like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and I still love both those bands. Granted, the former have produced a few albums not worthy of their name, but the rest have been good, and Iron Maiden have never made an album unworthy of the Iron Maiden name. Along with those two greats have been “glam rockers” such as Mötley Crüe (pronounced “Murtley Cree” for those of you who don’t know how umlauts really change the sounds of vowels), bands that somehow think we all care about their sex lives.
   Metallica gave me a welcome alternative to glam by introducing me to thrash metal. It was far more authentic as metal to me than glam rock. From there, it led me to other thrash metal bands. However, even thrash was sorely lacking, as it was just too political for my taste. Too many thrash songs sounded like news reports. If I wanted news, I’d read it off the internet. I now make fun of some of the bands I used to like at the time.
   Then came the 1990s. Metal was declared “dead,” but it wasn’t. It was just untrendy. The trendy thing at the time was grunge. I listened to grunge greats like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. They seemed weak musically, but lyrically, they were far better than the glam and thrash I was listening to in the previous decade. I remember how the original members of Kiss got back together in the early 1990s with their famous make-up to try to “save” metal, but Kiss, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t metal, so how could they save it?
  Rather, it was another band, one I now love, that truly helped save metal.
  In university, I told someone I was into heavy metal. “You mean like Korn?” they asked. I hadn’t heard of Korn at the time. Eventually, I saw a poster of them, and they looked nothing like a metal band. Honestly, I thought they were gonna be some weak grungy knockoff undeservedly calling themselves “metal.” Then one night, I watched the video for “Right Now” from their album Take a Look in the Mirror. It blew me away. Not only is Korn very much worthy of being called metal, but they’re even more metal than Judas Priest! Their music, however, does have a clear grunge influence, in that their lyrics are at a personal level. Korn’s lyrics, though, convey personal anger and frustration, things that metal ought to be about.
  In short, the 1990s were the best thing to ever happen to metal. By putting the anger and negativity back into the lyrics, bands like Korn, often called “new metal,” take metal back to its dark roots. MTVs Headbanger’s Ball, from which I first heard Korn, showed a remarkable improvement in the quality of the music it played around this time. New metal is true metal!
  Not that it’s the only true metal.
  Not too long ago, I came across (or actually Yahoo search-engined) an online radio station dedicated to extreme metal. Death FM, it’s called, but it plays black and doom metal as well as death metal, and I love all three subgenres. Death metal is an extension of new metal, making it more brutal musically and lyrically. Death metal lyrics take the lyrical negativity one step further, depicting characters surrendering to their dark impulses. Black metal conveys a hostile natural environment and the tribulations it puts its characters through. Both these forms of metal tend to be fast-paced in their rhythm, but metal can also have a slow rhythm. Doom metal is rhythmically slow, conveying a sense of impending death and the dread attached to it. All have one thing in common with new metal: personal introspection.
  I have a rule towards metal lyrics: Tell me about you. Don’t bother telling me about the world, like thrash does. I have eyes to see the world for myself, so I don’t need your input. Don’t brag about your wonderful sex life either. I frankly don’t care, and I don’t believe most of it anyway. Tell me about your anger, as it lets me know that I’m not alone in my own times of anger.

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